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Are MFA Programs Truly Worth It? Pros and Cons of A Terminal Degree

An MFA is the terminal degree for all those would be writers out there in the world. It is the end all, be all. Unless, you seek to be a professor and then you should seek a PhD as well. But for those that just want to hone their skill as a writer, an MFA is where they should stop. Most MFA programs take two years to complete. Some tell you to finish a certain number of courses, as mine did.


  1. An MFA allows you to meet wonderful fellow writers. This means networking but it also means workshopping. Workshopping is a way to assist others as well as strengthen your own style and authorial voice.

  2. An MFA program will truly teach you the ins and outs of writing as well as editing. Depending upon your program you may be able to explore other genres outside of what you are used to and find a new hidden talent for drama or poetry or maybe even creative nonfiction. You will realize that there is more than one way to do things.

  3. MFA programs offer interesting extracurricular activities as well. You may be able to sit down with authors, agents and editors, attend panel discussions and build your craft that way. And you know what that means?! Networking! You might meet wonderful people willing to assist you and help you to grow even if that is just by pointing you to a new resource or down an avenue you never thought of turning toward before.

  4. An MFA won’t take as long to get as a PhD and you’ll have more connections coming out than you did going in. Additionally, some jobs like to know that you care about education.


  1. Not all MFA programs are what they seem to be on the brochure. You may not get the attention you need which is why you have to be careful and quite dedicated when it comes to choosing a program.

  2. Some jobs that you apply for care more about experience than education. They want 5 years of experience in book publishing for an entry level position and while this isn’t necessarily a con, after ten or so postings you may begin to wonder if it was worth it going to school instead of just pushing your way into the world.

  3. MFA programs can be pretty expensive. Let me just be honest here. Not all programs are low-residency and low-residency programs may mean taking 10 years for you to walk across that stage. The arts don’t have the same funding as law or engineering or medical degrees. No one will gladly pay your way and then some. It is up to you. You may get scholarships from your program but you have to be on the ball seeking outside scholarships, grants and fellowships so that you can afford to make ends meet while you are in school.


There are a lot of people out there that say that MFA programs aren’t worth the money or they time you put into them. My own professors in undergraduate told me not to go into a program that wasn’t going to pay me to be there. I was foolish and didn’t listen. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my program and being at Penn allowed me to learn and expand my horizons in more than just creative writing but I wish I would have done a few things differently.

On the other hand, MFA programs have a lot to offer you especially if your undergraduate program was lacking in the creativity department. For me, there was no real option. I felt like I had to get that MFA. My undergraduate degrees had not satisfied me and I wanted to learn more, I wanted to practice my craft more and it’s acceptable to practice in school. So, I got my MLA (an MFA equivalent at the University of Pennsylvania) and loved every minute of it. I met interesting people and sat in on wonderful lectures. In my opinion, even though I had to work two jobs while taking my classes, it was worth it.

If you are looking for an MFA program, I would check out Poets&Writers comprehensive database. And if you have an MFA, what was your program like?

Check out my Instagram @Chyina_Powell and be sure to follow this blog. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Happy writing! Chyina

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